Home brewing in Connecticut Discussions - CT Beer Trail

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sam Adams: Telling no lies about Cherry Wheat & George Washington

I'm still working my way through the John Adams HBO series, and the Sam Adams Summer Style case of brews I picked up earlier in the month. One of the supporting characters in the TV series is General (and later President) George Washington, who we've already discussed enjoyed American craft beer and even homebrewing.

We also already discussed the fact that Sam Adams did not support Washington, ironic that so many years later the Sam Adams Washington Porter be such a flop. In truth I never tried it, and would love to, but it rated pretty low over at beeradvocate.com. Perhaps Sam and George will never see eye to eye...

"Cut all the cherry trees down you want kid, just stay the heck away from my hops plants!"

If you know anything about Washington, you've probably heard the story about how he fessed up to killing, or in some versions of the story, cutting down his father's cheery tree when he was a young lad.

"George,'' said his father, "do you know who has killed my beautiful little cherry tree yonder in the garden? I would not have taken five guineas for it!''

This was a hard question to answer, and for a moment George was staggered by it, but quickly recovering himself he cried:

"I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie! I did cut it with my little hatchet.''

The anger died out of his father's face, and taking the boy tenderly in his arms, he said:

"My son, that you should not be afraid to tell the truth is more to me than a thousand trees! Yes - though they were blossomed with silver and had leaves of the purest gold!''

Apparently that tale is pure fiction, but it's a good segway to discuss Sam Adams Cherry Wheat.

He shoots, he scores! Two points!

Beer: Sam Adam's Cherry Wheat

"I cannot tell a lie, father, you know I cannot tell a lie!
This beer is just 'OK' when served from a bottle!"

Some words from Sam Adams:

Ale brewed with Cherries, crisp and fruity with a hint of honey.
Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat® follows the centuries old American tradition of brewing beer with native ingredients, in this case Michigan cherries as well as a touch of honey. The sweet fruitiness of the cherries is balanced against the crisp, cereal note from the malted wheat and the subtle citrus flavor from the Noble hops. The end result is a sweet, refreshing beer that is light on the palate but long on complexity.

Style: Fruit / Vegetable Beer

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: A generic form of flavored beer, some breweries actually use real fruit or veggies, though most use an extract, syrup or processed flavor to give the effect of a particular fruit or vegetable. Usually ales, but with not much ale character to them and commonly unbalanced. Malt flavor is typically hidden with a low hop bitterness to allow the fruit or vegetable to dominate.

(This beer comes in at 5.2 % abv)

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Pint glass
Location of tasting: On the back deck
Reviewer: Bryon

On to the Review

1. Appearance -
Amber/gold in color, slight haze, not overly beautiful. A little dull, big fluffy head, but only moderate retention, low carbonation and some lacing.

For some reason, the lighting in my kitchen makes every beer look like an IPA or an EPA on my camera...

2. Smell - Sweet, it smells of cherries, go figure. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - A mild taste, not over bearing like a cherry coke, if anything an unimpressive understated flavor. As the beer warms, the cherry undertones become more detectable, eventually the flavor "adds up" if you will. It has a tart after taste, a refreshing good Summer beer I suppose, but it's not my bag.

4. Mouthfeel - Light, boring beer. Goes down easy enough, but I'd much rather have something else.

5. Drinkability - This brew confuses me much like the summer ale did. I really enjoyed it when I had it on tap at the 99s a few months ago, but I was not overly impressed by the beer out of the bottle. Not horrible, but utterly forgettable on this particular tasting. Proably a great refreshing beverage for a hot day, a good alternative for that cold can of Bud hiding out at the back of the fridge or that bottle of Corona while mowing the lawn, but I'll pass for something else.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: 6.5 (It as much better on tap with a burger a few months ago, I don't get it...)

Nothing goes better with the Aleluminati than a cold beer and a review work sheet, I'm a geek...

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Fermentation Friday July 08: A tip for new homebrewers

My tip for all those new homebrewers out there is, avoid distractions!

Homebrewing should be, and typically is, a lot of fun... But it's not all fun and games. While you shouldn't over think the whole process, you should pay attention to what you're doing.

You're not cooking a pot of soup here people, you're cooking delicious beer! It's OK to relax and have a few homebrews while you brew, but don't get carried away. A sloppy drunk makes for a sloppy brewer and in the long run crappy brew.

It's OK to have some buddies over, check out the game, chow down on some pizza, talk some smack, while brewing. Have some fun, make brewing an event, but don't forget the all important wort on the stove top! Keep your eye on the prize!

Most of my first brewing gaffs were a result of my lack of attention to detail, or my rushed approach to the process. It's challenging to avoid boil overs when you're in the other room finishing your fifth piece of pizza and talking it up with the boys. It's also easy to accidentally pop the airlock seal off the bucket lid and plop it into the murky depths of your first batch of beer, if your rushing through the final stages of brew day and get a little over zealous. There's been times when I forgot how long the wort had been boiling and put the hops and such in at the wrong times.

Brewing, for most of us, is not a job. It's a pastime or a hobby. It's fun, and we should keep it that way. But don't half ass it. Have your buddies over, enjoy a homebrew, eat some good chow, talk it up, etc... But at the end of the day, make sure you brewed a quality batch of beer by maintaining your attention to detail.

In the end, you'll be glad you did, especially after that first pint of home brew...

Fermentation Friday

Fermentation Friday is the brain child of Adam from BeerBits2. On the last Friday of every month, homebrewing bloggers all write about one homebrewing related topic. One blog in particular hosts the event by featuring all the various posts from all the bloggers that participated. And then folks like you read them and hopefully comment on them. It's a win-win for everyone! And then another month comes by and its wash, rinse, repeat!

Here's what's been discussed to date:

May 2008 (hosted by Adam) - I remember when I started homebrewing...

June 2008 (hosted by CNYBrew’s Travis!) - What is the craziest concoction you ever came up with, on the fly or prepped, to brew with?

Homebrewbeer.net will host in December, so stay tuned!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sam Adams: History of bad luck & Summer Ale

In case you missed my last post "Sam Adams: Patriot & Failed Brewer?" I've decided to to jump head first into a Sam Adam's Summer Style case and review it from bottle to bottle, in honor of the summer season, as well as our nation's revolutionary history.

Sam Adams suffered from bad luck
In my previous post, I discussed the irony of Sam Adams as a failed brewer and business man, despite the raging success of the modern day Sam Adams beer from the Boston Beer Company. But perhaps I was a little too hard on Sam, after reading a little more, it would seem that Sam had a lot on his mind in those days of failed business and brewing.

Sam and his wife Elizabeth had a run of bad luck, losing 4 children and ultimately ending in the death of Elizabeth herself. Read this section of Wikipedia for the details...

"At around this time, Adams had spent and mismanaged most of his inheritance to the point where creditors even attempted to seize his home. By 1760, Adams was bankrupt..."

Pretty horrible really, perhaps I should cut Sam a break on his poor business and brewing practices. But take heart friends, Sam would be OK, in addition to "fathering" the American revolution, he would also bounce back and start a romance with the 21 year old daughter of a friend. Way to go Sam, you old dog!

Speaking of parenthood... This transition is in poor taste...
After discussing the Adams family's (no not that Adams Family) child birthing woes, discussing my own future as a father may be in poor taste, but whatever...

We have a new baby of our own on the way, and time for preparing for fatherhood is running short. The "Alewife" gets a little annoyed if I squander my remaining time on such trivial activities as beer blogging and the like. So, the trick is to combine such activities with baby prep. This beer was enjoyed while making dinner and reading up on taking care of baby. Combining baby prep and beer enjoyment can be hazardous. I'm reminded of the IPA slushy I enjoyed while putting the finishing touches on the baby's room...

Note the copy of "Baby Owner's Manual" along side the brew.
Not a bad beer to accompany my light reading on becoming a daddy.

Beer: Sam Adam's Summer Ale

Nothing better than a cold beer waiting for you on the back deck...

Some words from Sam Adams:

Bright and citrusy, brewed with mysterious grains of paradise.
Samuel Adams® Summer Ale is an American wheat ale. This summer seasonal uses malted wheat as well as lemon zest and grains of paradise, a rare pepper from Africa first used as a brewing spice in the 13th Century to create a crisp and spicy flavor and body. The ale fermentation imparts a background tropical fruit note reminiscent of mangos and peaches. All of these come together to create a quenching, clean finishing beer perfect for those warm Summer days.

Style: American Pale Ale

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: An Americanized version of a Hefe Weizen, these beers range within the pale to golden range in color. Reminiscent of a Hefe Weizen in appearance, unless filtered. Long-lasting head with a light to medium body, higher carbonation is proper. German Weizen flavors and aromas of banana esters and clove-like phenols will not be found. Most use a substantial percentage of wheat malt. Hop character will be low to high but most are moderate in bitterness. There may be some fruitiness from ale fermentation though most examples use of a fairly neutral ale yeast, resulting in a clean fermentation with little to no diacetyl.

Often served with a lemon wedge (popularized by Americans), to either cut the wheat or yeast edge, which many either find to be a flavorful snap ... or an insult and something that damages the beer's taste and head retention.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

(In this case, 5.2 % abv)

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Pint glass
Location of tasting: On the back deck
Reviewer: Bryon

I don't love this beer, but it is a great compliment to hot weather and BBQing...

On to the Review

1. Appearance -
Pale golden yellow with a bit of haze, looks like liquid wheat. Topped with a moderate head, slight lacing inside the glass.

2. Smell - This beer nearly flew below my nose's radar. Sweet, perhaps fruity (lemon?) aroma. That's about it. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - A mild sweet wheat flavor, punctuated with a lemon zest twang, low to no hops, and something else, something peppery... Could it be the "grains of paradise" that I detect?

Some words on the "grains of paradise" from Wikipedia...

"In West African folk medicine, grains of paradise are valued for their warming and digestive properties. A. melegueta has been introduced to the Caribbean Islands, where it is used as medicine and for religious (voodoo) rites."

The label says it all...

4. Mouthfeel - Light, smooth and adequately carbonated.

5. Drinkability - This brew confuses me. I really enjoyed it when I had it on tap at a few local pubs. A good beer to enjoy on the bar patio on a hot day. But I did not love this beer out of the bottle. Certainly still a refreshing and very drinkable beer, but it didn't do it for me. That being said, I could still have quite a few, but mostly because it goes down so easily, not because I'm in love with it. Did I mention I don't love this beer?

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: 7.5 (But that a score given begrudgingly)

The beer is gone, as is the chicken... Time to go inside... Enjoy your summer!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Sam Adams: Patriot & Failed Brewer?

"I beat you fair and square, now you owe me beer!"

I love history, especially American history. I discovered a series on the History channel call "The Revolution" which chronicled the American revolution with reenactments and considerable detail. Good stuff, but some have questioned the accuracy of the series! There was some mention of Washington's requests for supplies for his troops, including beer. That struck me as funny, as I tried to imagine my own modern day leadership sending desperate please to Congress for beer. Keep in mind, beer was often a safe alternative to water back in the day, not just something for a Friday night.

"George Washington, a noted brewer and first President of the United States, had more than the British to battle during America’s war for independence. Upon enlisting, Washington had promised each of his soldiers a quart of beer as a part of their daily rations. As war progressed and supplies diminished, The Continental Congress threatened to eliminate the beer rations. Well, old George would have no part of that and argued to maintain the full beer rations. And we all know the final outcome of that war…"

I'm not sure, but I think this may very well be a direct parody of the series, "Drunk History".

"By God, these men need beer!"

My love for this period in American history resurfaced this past Independence Day, and I wondered how I could mesh this interest with my enjoyment of craft beer and home brewing. So, I read up on Washington's own love for beer and brewing. I would love to brew up a beer from his own recipe some day. It's a shame his porter recipe is not available.

During the holiday, the "Alewife" and I rented the first DVD in the "John Adams" series. I've only seen the first two episodes, but the unique perspective on the relationship between John and Sam Adams was interesting. This got me thinking of Sam Adams, and then my mind turned towards beer once again. Go figure...

Check out this History Channel clip on the history of American brewing.

Sam Adams is often referred to as "Brewer and Patriot" by the Boston Beer Company. Despite the fact that Sam was a detractor of George Washington, he certainly was a patriot, he even signed the Declaration of Independence. But what brewing did Sam Adams actually do? From the little I could find online about Sam Adams' brewing experience, it doesn't seem to be anything that exciting. Sam inherited his father's brewery, and then ran it into the ground.

"In spite of his lack of success at business (failing as a brewer and tax collector and wasting an inheritance), Adams displayed true genius in politics."

Sam Adams was, "an unsuccessful brewer, and a poor businessman." Now that's ironic, Sam Adams, the name sake for the Boston Beer Company's vast array of beers, was a flop at brewing and at business. I wonder if that was ever brought up to the company's investors. Good thing the company was built around Jim Koch's family recipe, and not the Adams family recipe.

At any rate, while grocery shopping earlier this month, I stumbled upon the Sam Adams Summer Styles case. The grocery stores in my area either do not carry beer, or only carry a limited variety. This 12 pack was on sale, and I had American history and Sam Adams on the brain. As they say, the rest is history!

“Craft beer drinkers crave variety and the option to enjoy different styles that complement any occasion,” said Jim Koch, founder and brewer of Samuel Adams beers. “With summer comes outdoor grilling and entertaining. The new Summer Styles Variety Package offers a variety of full-flavored craft beers that pair well with traditional seasonal cuisine such as barbecue, salads, and fresh fruit.”

The case includes the following beers:

So, in the interest of American history, and tasty beer, I will drink all 12 of these babies over the next week or two and review each one. It's the least I could do for one of our founding fathers.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Dave's first solo brew re-visted

OK, today sucked! And yesterday was no picnic either... A 14 hour day yesterday, and I Worked all day in the heat, my neck and face are burnt from the sun, my dogs are killing me! Let's just say, combat boots are not designed for comfort. But I digress...

After a couple of days of hard work, I got home and decided to crack open one of Dave's first solo home brews. While I liked it well enough earlier in the week, I think sampling it immediately following our IPA was not a fair method of tasting his brew. You don't want to start off with something very flavorful, and then go to something more easy going. Your taste bud won't get what's going on.

So, as I drove home, a sweaty mess in my uniform, I suddenly thought, "Man I could go for one of Dave's weizens right now, I bet that would be really refreshing."

The bottles were too small to fill a weizen glass, so this (flute glass?) seemed like a better fit...

I nailed it right on the head! I poured the brew into that special glass I got from Brooklyn Brewery, the gold rimmed one they served their Local 1 in... And as you can see for the image below, the beer did not stay in that gilded glass for long...

Dave's beer was not long for this world...

Dave's weizen was both refreshing and flavorful today. My intense thirst combined with a clean pallet allowed that flavor to come forward. Wheat and citrusy goodness abounds! A great beer for a hot summer day! Well done Dave, well done... I might need to make quick work of the other one in the fridge!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dave's first two home brews

Gentlemen, start your engines! Pints for the IPA and Weizen glasses for the Weizen...

Dave and Kenn finally got the chance to come over and try out the IPA we made. Keep in mind, this was Dave's very first home brew, and he did a great job. I was beginning to feel a little guilty as I was sharing his first batch with folks from work, and enjoying a few on my own. (As a matter of fact, I'm sipping one on the back deck as I grill up a steak and type this blog post...)

Dave's Weizen, begged to be cooled and then enjoyed.

Dave enjoyed brewing so much that he brewed a second batch all on his own a few days after we made the IPA. His second batch (& first solo batch) was a Weizen, and he was kind enough to bring a small cooler full of those brews for us to sample as well. However, the cooler had no ice in it, and the beer was warm.

Warm beer sucks...

Myth Busters to the rescue!
We decided to chill the Weizens using a method discussed on Myth Busters. Thought to be one of the most rapid methods of beer chilling, we decided to cool our brew with a bath of water and ice. It worked rather quickly, but while we waited we sampled the IPA.

Dave's first bottle of his first home brew... Success taste pretty good!

A bit of irony
We were discussing the pros and cons of flip top bottles versus traditional bottles and capping. I hate capping, but Dave was quick to point out he had almost no flat beers on this particular batch, which he bottled and capped the old fashioned way. As he made this statement I opened his cooler and saw a bottle half empty that had leaked a bit. So much for the all mighty capper! And for the record, he had at least one flat brew too.

Poor Kenn, he opened a quitter! I hate quitters!

Exhibit A! Note the leaking foam...

A leaky quitter of the worse sort...

They weren't all quitters! This one had some fight in it...

The Verdict?
Carbonation mishaps aside, the Weizen wasn't too bad for Dave's first solo batch. Not bad at all... In retrospect, we should have sampled the Weizen before the IPA. It's difficult to enjoy a more subtle beer after having a hoppy selection like the IPA. That being said, I was very impressed with how quickly Dave has taken to the hobby, and I look forward to more brew swapping and joint brewing adventures in the near future. There was some talk of an Oktoberfest in our future.

Side note: All of the carbonation issues reminded me, I still hate capping. I think it's time to look into kegging!

Behold Dave's solo brew in all it's splendor and glory!

The gateway drug of IPAs...

What about the IPA?
As for the IPA, Kenn hated it, but he hates IPAs... Dave liked it, but thought it needed more hops. I liked it over all. Not over the top, but hoppy enough to have character, a sort of IPA for beginners... My First IPA by Fisher Price? Bottom line, it's an IPA non IPA drinkers might like, a gate way drug of sorts...

Off to Eli's
After we tried a little of each beer, we headed out to Eli Canon's in Middle Town to hit up the tasting, which was canceled. So, we ordered some extra crispy hot wings, a few burgers and couple of brews from the beer menu. If you happen to be in CT, around the middle of the state, give Eli Canon's a try, they have a pretty good beer selection and tastings on most Tuesdays.

That's it for now... Coming soon, my run through a Sam Adam's Summer Mix case...

Monday, July 7, 2008

Beer Review: Cisco's Whale Tale Ale

My buddy Kenn was kind enough to bring me a bottle of Cisco's Whale Tale Ale back a while ago on a brew night. I selfishly devoured the entire bottle on my own a few days later and enjoyed every drop of it. The following is my review based on the chicken scratch notes I jotted down that night. Special thanks to Kenn for being a generous guy...

Beer: Cisco's Whale Tale Ale

Some words from Cisco:

Tasting notes: An amber English-style ale that has a nice balance between hops and malt. It's the most popular of our beers and the most versatile in terms of pairing with food or people.

Randy's comment: "Whale's Tale is brewed with a blend of British and domestic malts and dry-hopped with a kiss of Kent Golding Hops. I love really strong hops but I made this more balanced so [my charming and lovely wife*] Wendy would like it." *(Author's note)

Style: American Pale Ale

Style Description from our friends at BeerAdvocate.com: Of British origin, this style is now popular worldwide and the use of local ingredients, or imported, produces variances in character from region to region. Generally, expect a good balance of malt and hops. Fruity esters and diacetyl can vary from none to moderate, and bitterness can range from lightly floral to pungent.

American versions tend to be cleaner and hoppier, while British tend to be more malty, buttery, aromatic and balanced.

Average alcohol by volume (abv) range: 4.0-7.0%

(In this case, 6.8% abv)

How was it served? From a bottle
Glass: Weizen glass (no clean pints!)
Location of tasting: My living room
Reviewer: Bryon

All the begging in the world wasn't going to get Christine a sip of this gem...
What Christine doesn't know is that beer is bad for dogs...
That's true kids, look it up! And that's one to grow on...

On to the Review

1. Appearance -
Copper in color, ever so slightly hazed yet still mostly transparent. Topped by a thick foamy head built from a mixture of tiny and medium sized bubbles. Great head retention, excellent carbonation, and over all a pretty beer to gaze upon.

2. Smell - Toasted caramel and coffee? The hops and yeast compete for attention as they present themselves intertwined in the subtle herbal and fruity undertones. (A note on smell - I have a very limited sense of smell, that comes and goes, so my opinions on beer smells should be taken with a grain of salt... That being said, my nose must have been working that day!)

3. Taste - A delicate balance between the toasted malt and ample hops. Hints of coffee, and citrus? Or perhaps hints of chocolate and orange? The hops add enough character to help this delicious beer stand out from it's English counterparts, but not so hoppy as to be mistaken for an IPA. Over all a well built beer!

4. Mouthfeel - Medium body, coarse texture, nicely carbonated.

5. Drinkability - I'm reminded of my college days when I stopped drinking Bud and discovered Bass Ale. That being said, this beer is what Bass should have been, textured, flavorful, tasty. I would love another crack at this beer with an awesome bar burger and some wings. I can see myself enjoying and savoring a few of these in a local pub with friends over some good conversation.

Drinkability Scale from 1- 10: A solid 9!

Independence Day - IPA Slushy!

My four day weekend is coming to a slow and uneventful halt. As I prepare to start the next 11 day work week, I can't help but feel disappointed.

What's a guy gotta do to get a beer around here?
I attended three different BBQs this weekend, none of which had beer available. No beer on Independence Day?!? What would President Washington think? Granted two were church related BBQs and the third was a birthday party for a one year old, but still, not a beer to be found at a single gathering! I also didn't get the time to home brew this weekend. Nor did I manage to connect with Dave to give him a chance to sample the IPA we made. I better hurry, it's going fast! I was also hoping to sample Dave's Hefeweizen but no luck there either.

Prepping for baby
In between attending beerless gatherings over this holiday weekend, the "alewife" and I spent a fair share of time prepping our home for the arrival of our son. Our first child is due in early August, and getting the house ready trumps my desire to brew more beer. So, I made the best of it...

Nothing says, "Happy Independence Day!" like cribs and beer-slushies...

I spent the better part of Friday, assembling the floor model crib we purchased without the benefit of proper tools or instructions. At one point, I actually had to use a butter knife in lieu of a screw driver. With that process well under way, I decided to add the element of home brew to my efforts. I had to run down to the basement and grab a few IPAs for the fridge, and stuck one in the freezer to cool it rapidly. Apparently, the freezer works a little too well...

New invention, the beer-slushy?
I opened up the freezer after a short time, and cracked open the IPA. As I tilted the bottle to pour the beer into the pint glass, only little trickled out. The top of the beer was frozen. What's a guy to do? Can you say, beer slushy?

I stuck that same butter knife I use on the crib into the bottle and broke up the frozen beer chunk blocking the way and it all came rushing into the glass in an icy and foamy splash. All the commotion lifted the yeast and sediment from the bottom of the bottle, causing my icy IPA to be a bit cloudier than normal. I had a choice, pour it out, or go thirsty. Would it have been home brew blasphemy to drink it? What would you have done? If that's wrong, I don't want to b e right!

No monkeys or beers were harmed in the making of this crib...

It still smelled good, it certainly was carbonated, and I was thirsty. So, I did the only thing I could do, I enjoyed my very first IPA flavored slushy. Actually, it was pretty good, despite the cloudiness and overzealous head. I need to remember this little anecdote so I can share it with my son when he's old enough to appreciate how goofy his old man can be.

Friday, July 4, 2008

President Washington enjoyed a good porter

A beer fit for a President...
What should a red blooded beer loving American drink on Independence Day? If you were to go back in time and ask President George Washington, he'd probably tell you to drink a tasty Porter, and make sure it was a craft beer made in America... Not really, he would...

"We have already been too long subject to British prejudices. I use no porter or cheese in my family, but such as is made in America; both these articles may now be purchased of an excellent quality." - President George Washington

But maybe you'd rather brew up a batch of beer with President Washington's own homebrew recipe... It's not a porter, but rather a "small beer"...

"To Make Small Beer

Take a large Siffer [Sifter] full of Bran Hops to your Taste. -- Boil these 3 hours then strain out 30 Gall[ons] into a cooler put in 3 Gall[ons] Molasses while the Beer is Scalding hot or rather draw the Melasses into the cooler & St[r]ain the Beer on it while boiling Hot. let this stand till it is little more than Blood warm then put in a quart of Yea[s]t if the Weather is very Cold cover it over with a Blank[et] & let it Work in the Cooler 24 hours then put it into the Cask -- leave the bung open till it is almost don[e] Working -- Bottle it that day Week it was Brewed."

Small beer as defined by wikipedia...
Small beer
/small ale can also refer to a beer made of the "second runnings" from a very strong beer (e.g., scotch ale) mash. These beers can be as strong as a mild ale, depending on the strength of the original mash. This was done as an economy measure in household brewing in England up to the 18th century and is still done by some homebrewers and microbrewers such as Anchor Brewing Company.

"Hand me a beer will ya?"

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Ostrich, dogfish and independence

So it's Thursday night, Independence Day eve if you will, and it also happens to be date night at my house. Typically Friday night is date night, but Independence Day trumps date night, so we shifted the schedule a bit...

To celebrate the start of a 4 day weekend, our nation's birthday, and our marriage, we went out for an expensive, yet tasty meal at Barcelona in West Hartford. A very pleasant spot, with a unique "al carte" sort of menu. We ordered a variety of Tapas, based on the recommendation from the other pregnant couple at the restaurant, that happened to also be sitting next to us. My wife thinks we were in 'the pregnant section'. I was tempted to ask the non-pregnant couple to leave, as their 'nasty habit' was offending me. But I digress...

I'm a big fan of eating obscure animals. I know that sounds strange, but it's true. Long story short, the menu had both elk and ostrich on the menu, and I couldn't resist trying at least one of them. So, ostrich it was... Oddly enough, those big goofy looking birds from Joust are pretty darn tasty, and more like cow than chicken... But what beer should I pair with ostrich, I thought...

While the food selection was diverse, the beer selection was just OK... I opted for a Dogfish Head... Not sure what style, the menu didn't say, and I never got around to asking. I believe it was a 60 Minute IPA.

Now Garrett Oliver recommends the following styles with ostrich; Biere de garde, tripel, Dortmunder, or hellesbock. But the beerselection was thin... And the ostrich had a slightly spicy paprika flavoring in the marinade, so it actually went pretty well with the IPA. Here's the thing, an upscale, trendy place like this has a wine list the length of a phone book, but the beer list was fairly short. They did have the Dogfish, and a local brew from Thomas Hooker, but those are the only two that really jumped out at me. I'm considering sending a note to the owner, recommending more craft beers...

Me and Garrett Oliver, no he didn't come out on date night... Can you identify who is who?

After the meal, we drove out to the park in our home town and caught the last half of the fireworks display. A nice night all in all. I think I'll try to eat some squirrel or platypus's tomorrow.

Have a happy 4th of July weekend, and remember the boys and girls fighting over seas...

Here's to them, CHEERS!

Little Rock Redux

I blogged about some recent beer travels in the Little Rock area not too long ago...

If that caught your interest, check out these links over at Hedonist Beer Jive:

Homebrew tasting at work

I had to work last weekend but decided to make the best of it and even have a little fun. A couple of my buddies were getting promoted, and had a little party planned for after hours to celebrate. I figured this would be a good opportunity to bring in some of my home brews in to share and show off a little. The idea of trying beer that "Bryon made in house," actually generated a little excitement. Folks were genuinely interested in seeing how it tasted and what it looked like. I fielded the usual questions from those that were curious about the actual process of home brewing.

The list of typical questions went like this:

"You made this?"
"How did you make this?"

"How long did it take to make this?"

"How did you carbonate it?"

"How much did you make?"

"What does your wife think about all of this?"

Save some for Dave!
Folks really seemed to like the beer, which was a relief. I brought in the IPA, and my experience tells me that most casual beer drinkers are not crazy about the extra hops, this batch was balanced enough for everyone to enjoy. I only brought in a third of the batch (I still haven't let Dave try any, need to save some for him) and it didn't last long. My boss even tried some...

Impressing the boss
He asked, "Is that home made grog?" When I offered him some he was eager to give it a try and ran back to his office for a glass. I had one more bottle left, he had asked just in time. When I opened the bottle and heard the less than impressive pop, I was concerned. It's ironic that the seal on this particular bottle was not as successful as the others. While the beer was fine, it wasn't as carbonated as the others. That being said, he still enjoyed it. There was something rewarding about having the boss enjoy one of my beers after a long day of work.

Generating a buzz
That little tasting generated some interest in home brewing with a number of folks at work. A few folks that couldn't make the gathering asked me to bring more in, others wanted to learn how to home brew. One guy had home brewed for years, and the stopped when life got complicated, was excited when he saw my empties at the party. "Who's the home brewer," he asked. By the end of our conversation, I think I convinced him to get back into home brewing.

Home brewing is a lot of fun, but even more so when you can share the experience and the end results with friends and family. Consider bringing a bit of your home brew to the next party you go to. It makes for an interesting ice breaker, and you just might find some future brew buddies.

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